Gangnam Style! The Top 12 Tech Stories Of 2012 (LIST)

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More companies, apps, and devices broke news, or just broke (you know who I’m talking about) than ever. Stars were born, governments were toppled, and fortunes were made. Here are the biggest:

1. Social Media & the Syrian Revolution. Evil Middle-East dictatorship #4 is about to fall, and once again we know about it because of Twitter, Instagram, and a few other social media sources where soundbites and clips sneak past the dictatorship’s digital blackout.

2. Facebook IPO. However powerful Mark Zuckerberg is, he couldn’t halt the gravy train. Facebook’s investors forced an Initial Public Offering, moving Facebook onto the stock market last spring in what was supposed to be the biggest ever public offering. There were billions of dollars to be made. Though many rich men got even richer, the stock dropped by half it’s value and is only now recovering. The ramifications are big, because lots of other tech companies decided not to offer stock after the flub, meaning billions of dollars never made it into the markets and the economy.

3. Anonymous. Somewhere out there, probably from his mom’s basement in an Eastern European housing complex, a hacker named Anonymous brought down government websites in the US, Africa, and the Middle East to protest injustice, poverty, and to keep busy since he’s not so good with girls. The media loves to cover this person (or persons), and given that no one seems to know who and where he is, he’ll cause millions of dollars in additional damage in 2013. Let’s hope a new World of Warcraft game distracts him.

4. Psy. Why, you might ask, is this a big story? Because foreign acts rarely top US charts, and certainly not those from an Asian country (note: Far East Movement is from L.A.). Psy would still only be selling out stadiums in his native South Korea if it weren’t for YouTube, where “Gangnam Style” will become the first video to cross the billion view threshold by New Year’s Eve. 

5. Apple v Samsung. Someone at Apple bought an Android phone a few years back and noticed it looked like an iPhone. It could’ve been coincidence, but Apple thought it was copyright infringement, and sued Samsung for astronomical sums of money. The trial was brutal, in a boring corporate attorney kind of way, with Samsung counter-suing, and Apple suing Samsung in other countries. Turned out the jury had eyes, because they found Samsung guilty and fined them more than $1 billion dollars. What did we learn? If you have enough money, you can steal someone else’s property and pay a fine to keep it.

6. Instagram Acquisition. At some point after the Facebook acquisition was announced, you probably gazed down at your Instagram app and muttered “I wish I thought of this.” Don’t beat yourself up too bad. There are thousands upon thousands of camera apps available for your smartphone, but Instagram became the biggest and was acquired by Mark Zuckerberg. He made the billion dollar offer without even telling Facebook’s board – after spending a weekend with the Instagram founders at his California mansion. Unfortunately for Instagram’s founders, Facebook’s stock didn’t do so well, so their billion dollar payday ended up being a measly $700 million. 

7. Cyber Warfare. Back in the day, Western government worried about a Russian nuclear attack. Nowadays, they stress over a cyber attack, and rightly so, because they continue to find evidence that other governments are snooping on us. The tables were turned this year, when the Iranian government claimed that a foreign entity was trying to sabotage its nuclear facilities. Though they deny it, all signs point to a combined US/Israeli government effort, as reported by 60 Minutes. Here’s how it went down – the most secret elements of both governments invested millions of dollars to write a computer worm that scoured the global internet, looking for the signature of a computer server used only for nuclear fuel processing. Just a few were made by Russia for the Iranian nuclear facilitates. The worm infected these servers in a way that made the nuclear scientists think everything was working when they looked at their gauges, but really the worm was slowly changing calibration levels. And no one would ever have found out, except for a couple of perceptive computer security geeks who noticed traffic irregularities caused by the worm and reported it. Turns out our government wrote a beautiful worm, but didn’t hide their tracks well enough. Sigh…

8. Groupon and the Clone Army. Last spring, tens of thousands people were signing up every day to get 70% off crappy sushi in their neighborhood. In what seemed like just a few days later, LivingSocial, ebay, Fab, Google Offers and many more began sending you emails for stuff you soon lost interest in. All of these guys are reeling now and none are turning a profit. It’s gotten so bad that Groupon’s CEO had to argue for his job at their last board meeting.

9. Apple Maps Debacle. We’ve all seen pictures of the app rendering certain locales strangely, or not rendering them at all. The heat got so bad for Apple, that mere days after launch, CEO Tim Cook publicly apologized and, last month, the exec responsible for the Maps app was sacked. Wonder if he’ll keep it on his resume? 

10. Windows 8. Microsoft continues its strategy of releasing mediocre versions of products that other companies perfected years before. Windows 8 and the Surface tablet are its latest gambits, and most analysts are ready to call them a failure. Microsoft is so big, so wealthy, and so entrenched in business that they’re not going to go anywhere, but they’re losing market share in market segments by the day it seems. With no other upcoming product releases planned until the Xbox 720 comes out next Xmas, they have to continue to plugging stuff no one is asking for.

11. YouTube Redesign. Always loved, ever hated, YouTube rolled out a monster redesign of it’s site – moving towards a “channel-based strategy”. All of a sudden, the random channels that you didn’t even know you subscribed to were first and foremost on the homepage. Why did they f-ck us all over? Because YouTube learned that videos of silly cats and laughing babies don’t cover the billion dollar a year video storage bill. Better to have high quality stuff get watched more, so advertisers pay more, they reason. Well, their traffic dropped by around 20% and forced countless businesses who rely on page views to figure out new strategies. YouTube still hasn’t made up the difference in lost traffic, but it stuck with the design and people have pretty much coped.

12. Kickstarter. Those of you reading may not know Kickstarter.com, but soon enough some of you will be starting businesses or creating your own artist projects and you’ll need money. Good news! President Obama changed a bunch of laws this year making it easy for anyone to become an investor in a start up business. Kickstarter has become the place to post your business ideas and projects, and people can donate a few dollars or more to your cause. Some folks have raised millions of dollars already, who a year ago wouldn’t have been able to raise it all just a year ago. This phenomenon, known as crowd sourcing, will continue to grow in 2013.

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